Take a hard look at your donor file.
What is it, anyway?
For most of us, it’s a list of all the people who have given us money at some point in time.
Some donor files also contain lists of people who we think may give us money at some point in time. Other donor files are segmented into people who have given us money recently (“active” donors) and those who haven’t given money to us in a while (“inactive” donors).
What would happen if we ditched the idea of a donor file and instead created a community of practice–a list of individuals and organizations ranging from…
- Those who blog about our cause
- Nonprofit leaders from other organizations who share our cause
- Experts in fields related to our cause
- Churches, clubs, and service groups actively practicing our cause
- Individuals who have taken steps to become involved in our cause?
(That last category would include but not be limited to those who have given financially. And it might even exclude those who gave but did so in ways that did not reflect involvement in the cause, i.e., they gave because they knew the founder, because they participated in an auction or wine tasting or golf scramble or jog-a-thon where their giving was tied to the non-cause related event rather than the cause.)
What if, in other words, the glue that held our donor file together was a commitment to practice the cause and to grow in that practice with others of like mind and commitment rather than a financial transaction?
McKnight and Block, authors of The Abundant Community, authored a recent post entitled Gifts, Skills, Interests and Passions: The Glue That Holds Communities Together that is ostensibly about neighborhoods but has at least as much applicability to donor files:
When we consider your block or neighborhood, if it is organized it is because something in common leads people to want to come together. Where blocks are not organized, it is because neighbors don’t know what they share or have in common. Just living on the same block is not enough to pull many people out of their homes to join with neighbors except for an annual block party. One step up is the block club created to deal with crime, safety and security. But that is a community drawn together by fear — creating a fortress mentality.
There are some neighborhoods, however, drawn together because they have discovered the gifts, skills, interests and passions of their fellow residents. This knowledge is the catalyst for all kinds of new relationships. The connections may be between two neighbors who discover a mutual interest in jazz. Or it may be several neighbors with an interest in gardening. Or it may be all the neighbors who discover their common interest in being a village that raises a child.
Whenever a neighborhood comes together in powerful and satisfying ways, it is because two things have happened. First, they have found out about each other’s gifts. Second, they have made new connections based on these gifts. It is the sum of these connections that “glues” a neighborhood together.
Is your donor file a group of individuals “glued” to you because at some time in the past they wrote you a check? Or is your donor file a “virtual cause neighborhood” glued to each other with you in their midst because they have found out about each other’s–and your–gifts and made connections and commitments to grow together accordingly?